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Huskies Top Cal 28-21 for their First Road Win of the Season

The pass rush did just enough to keep Cal winless in October

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 22 Washington at Cal Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For the first time in the Kalen DeBoer Era on Montlake, UW can have a happy trip home.

In what ended up being a closer than necessary win over Cal, the defense showed just enough of a pulse to seal the road victory. Penix continues to carry the load for the offense, finishing 36/51 for 374 yards and 2 TDs, but despite the impressive statistics, the offense was stymied by a Cal defense that forced us earn points the hard way. For the first time all season, our offense failed to score on our opening possession, and we were held to just 6 points through two possessions.

Our first possession ended with a field goal after what looked like a miscommunication on the play call. Penix, predominantly a pocket passer, pulled the ball and started to roll out of the pocket with no routes being run in his direction. The play resulted in a tackle for loss with Penix visibly frustrated on the play. The general sloppiness on offense continued to be a theme through out the game with a team total of 9 penalties for 65 yards and a number of dropped passes, all playing into Cal’s game plan.

As expected, Cal’s well-coached defense keyed in on the fact that eliminating big plays were the only way that they were going to be able to slow down our high-powered offense. Their secondary blanketed our talented WRs, forcing Penix to dink-n-dunk his way down the field in long and drawn out drives that eventually fizzled out in the red zone. Their game plan was so effective that despite racking up 200+ yards on 5 possessions in the first half, the Huskies only held a 6-0 lead heading into the half as the offense wasn’t able to drive the ball downfield effectively enough to make up for an ineffective run game and several key penalties got them stuck behind the sticks.

Fortunately for the Dawgs, the defense bounced back with the addition of a few key members of the secondary and a rejuvenated pass rush. In his first game back from injury, Michael Powell played significant snaps opposite of Jordan Perryman, finally returning our week 1 starting CB duo to the field. The secondary’s performance wasn’t all that much better than the last few weeks, but with significantly more pressure and run stops being generated from the defensive front, the defense was able to take pressure off of the offense as they sorted through Cal’s defense in the first half.

The second half was a much different story on both sides of the ball. Despite the continued double coverage on the perimeter, our RBs, TEs, and WRs started to find their rhythm working the underneath zones. The RBs quietly had one of their better performances of the season. Their 26 carries for 109 yards weren’t representative of their overall impact as they also chipped in for 7 receptions, 94 yards, and the two longest plays of the game. With a better feel for what Cal’s defense was going to give us, Penix led 3 consecutive TD drives to open the second half. Unfortunately, Cal’s offense also found its rhythm against our defense.

Focusing more on the passing attack, Cal QB Jack Plummer found WR Michael Sturdivant running wild in our secondary for multiple second half TDs, including a 48-yard TD that felt like a back breaker. However, the pass rush, working against a stationary QB, finally started to wear down the Cal offensive line, recording numerous pressures, QB hits, and multiple second half sacks. That pressure really threw off Plummer’s timing on the last two Cal possessions when our offense couldn’t manage to convert first downs on the ground to salt away the game.

The final result and bowl-eligibility is certainly something that UW fans can celebrate, but despite an improved performance on the road, there is still a lot of work in the run game and pass coverage for the staff to focus on heading into our bye week. The Oregon State Beavers come to Seattle for Pac-12 After Dark action on November 4 with a 10-win season still in play for the Huskies.